Facts about Nephropathy and Filing for Disability
These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.
Facts about the condition
1) Nephropathy is the medical term for kidney damage and disease. Damage can be a result of chronic medical conditions, use of over-the-counter pain medications, and also extended exposure to lead.
2) IgA nephropathy, also called Berger's disease, is one common kidney disease. This condition gets its name due to the antibody IgA, which becomes stuck in the kidneys and prevents waste and excess water from being filtered out of the blood.
3) IgA nephropathy is a condition that slowly progresses, causing high blood pressure levels as well as swelling of the hands and feet, and producing blood and protein in urine. Eventually it can lead to end-stage kidney failure. It can also be put into remission through taking medication, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels and eating a diet that limits protein intake.
4) Diabetic nephropathy is a progressive condition, brought on by poor blood sugar control, that ultimately leads to kidney failure. In the United States, it is the most common cause of kidney failure.
5) Hypertensive nephropathy is kidney damage caused by long-term high blood pressure levels. Lupus, an autoimmune disorder, and xanthinuria, a genetic disorder causing deficiency of an enzyme called xanthine oxidase, are two other conditions that can lead to nephropathy.
6) Analgesic nephropathy is damage caused by use of over-the-counter pain medications, also known as nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Aspirin is a common medication that can cause damage when overused. Combination drugs are particularly likely to cause kidney damage, especially when phenacetin is included - although phenacetin was banned in the United States in the 1980s.
7) Analgesic nephropathy is the most likely of these conditions to have a good prognosis. When patients discontinue use of the medications causing the problem, the kidneys may return to normal. However, this condition can also lead to cancer and end-stage kidney disease, particularly if blood pressure levels are not controlled.
Qualifying for disability benefits with this condition
Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records.
This includes whatever statements and treatment notes that may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis). It also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.
In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.
Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).
Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?
There are several reasons but here are just two:
1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's disability attorney or disability representative will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge.
Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.
2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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